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Design Trend Alert: That Old Computer Aesthetic



The very first graphical user interfaces hit computer screens back in the early 1970s and the impact of their appearance was so huge that we’ve never really moved too far away from the original look that was established in these early versions. The impact that early computer systems had on the landscape of design can still be seen today and as time moves on these systems enter into the realm of nostalgia and they begin to influence modern graphic design once again, but this time to evoke more of a retro vibe.


If you take a look at any classic operating system (OS) from that era you will recognize a very familiar feel regarding how the elements look and things work. A lot of the core system behavior we see in modern operating systems was defined by these very first graphical user interfaces (GUI’s) — and while the visual polish of these elements have since evolved and core features have been added over time, a lot of the good things that early GUI’s got right are still heavily influencing how modern apps, websites and operating systems work and how they look.


This familiarity that early interfaces still have, paired with our inbuilt love of nostalgia has led to many designers using these retro elements in their own designs — sometimes creating work that directly mimics the aesthetic of early computers and operating systems or at least designing work that is meant to invoke a nostalgic vibe of the time or capture the joy of using early computers, software or webpages.


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